Friday, June 21, 2013

The Robbs "Race With The Wind" (Bonus Video Friday)

(The June BVF concept is Songs You've Never Heard Before That You REALLY Need To Hear)

"Briefly; the guitars ring, the voices ache and the lyrics yearn.  The ache in the voices suggest
that the lights were never so bright as the guitars imply and that no one was
ever quite so innocent as those high harmonies might claim."
- Ariel Swartley, defining folk-rock in the Boston Phoenix, 1983

Since I was a child my favorite time of day has always been twilight.  And since I was 14 years old in 1966 there have been two genres of rock & roll - punk-rock and folk-rock - for which my love has never flagged, in which my interest has never waned.  (I guess this explains why my two favorite bands of the 21st century are The White Stripes and The Avett Brothers.)  And there's something about twilight and folk-rock that just go together in my brain.

Today's Bonus Video Friday is by The Robbs, one of countless pop & folk-rock bands that got singles out in the 1960's who never really got much radio airplay, who never had big hits.  (The liner notes to The Robbs CD say "Race With The Wind" only got to Number 103 on the Billboard Singles Chart, which begs the question, "How did I ever HEAR this song to fall in love with it as utterly as I did, and buy the single?")

I think the answer to those questions might be that the radio was just so different back then.  Songs could be massive hits in one part of the United States and totally unheard in others.  (The Nightcrawlers' "Little Black Egg" comes to mind, in that respect.)  There are hit songs as late as the 1970's that were huge hits in Ohio that my lovely wife Debbie, who grew up in suburban New Jersey, has never heard OF, let alone heard, and vice versa.  Everything about music and the radio has just become so homogenized as time goes on.

I also think The Robbs might have been featured on Where The Action Is, a Dick Clark-produced and hosted weekday television series that beamed out of California from 1965 to 1967.  I used to race home from school and sit transfixed by whoever was on that show every day of every week.  (Paul Revere & The Raiders, whom I loved beyond comprehension, were also regulars.)  (Disappointingly, I couldn't find a live version of this tune from Where The Action Is on YouTube, but then again, who would have been taping The Robbs on TV in 1966?)  (By that token, though, where do all those OTHER YouTube uploads come from?)

Anyway; as much as I loved The Dave Clark 5, The Kinks and The Who in 1966 (and I loved them A LOT), I loved bands like The Robbs, Lyme & Cybelle (of which Warren Zevon was half), and The Leaves equally as much.  I am now 60 years old.  I just might take a walk in the twilight and listen to some folk-rock tonight.

inspirational verse; "It seems like I have never known / A morning I could call my own /
A day when fate belonged to me / To command as I see fittin' /
That don't happen, but it's fun to think of / I'll race with the wind" - Dee Robb, 1966


(Following is a reprint of a blog entry from January 31st, 2012, back in the early days of
Growing Old With Rock & Roll.  I'm not running out of material, it just seemed to fit today's topic.) 

It's May 1966, I'm in eighth grade.  I’ve inherited my big sister’s transistor radio as a hand-me-down and it’s pretty much my constant companion.  (For those readers under 40, the transistor radio was the Walkman or the Discman or the iPod of its day. No headphones, though, you just had to press it up against your ear.)  It’s difficult for me to convey how shy I was at that point in time.  I was shy to the point of invisibility.  I STROVE for invisibility.  I clung to anonymity.  I was shy to the point of mental retardation.  You kinda had to be there.  I was a mess.

Anyway, during recess and lunch every day of eighth grade I would stand on the playground outside the cafeteria door with my back against the fence and listen to my transistor radio.  One fateful day a song called "Girl In Love" by an Ohio band called The Outsiders (their big hit was "Time Won’t Let Me") was playing when the four prettiest and most popular girls in my class walked by.  "Oh, I love this song!" one of them beamed, "Could you turn it up, please?" "Girl In Love" was the current slow dance favorite at the eighth grade dances at which I would blend seamlessly into the shadows of some dark corner.  (I HAD to see the bands.....)

I managed to turn the volume up and hold the radio at arm’s length while being otherwise paralyzed by this recognition of my existence.  When the song ended the girls started peppering me with questions: "Do you know who sings that song?"  "Is this your radio?"  "How much did it cost?"  "How many batteries does it take?"  "Do The Outsiders have any other songs?"  I swear to God I have no recollection of any of my answers.  I somehow managed to stammer out replies and the girls actually seemed interested in what I said.  When the interrogation (as I perceived it) was over one of them touched my arm and said, "Thanks for letting us listen, Richard."

This girl knew my name.

These girls were the four most popular girls in eighth grade.  They were true teenage royalty.  In the caste system endemic to American elementary school, probably to this day, I was one step above leper or one step below outcast, but no higher.  How could this girl possibly have known my name?  At the cafeteria door, they stopped, twirled, and one of them asked, "Will you be out here tomorrow?"  "I guess," I managed, my voice cracking.  They smiled and went into school.

That had to be the moment, the moment I made the connection.  The moment I realized that if I PLAYED music, encounters like that one could be repeated.  The moment that my universe opened up and a host of possible futures appeared on the horizon.

If I could just get a guitar.

© 2013 Ricki C.


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